For adults who want to continue their education but did not graduate from high school, there are alternatives to a high school diploma. Many communities offer classes in adult education. Although General Educational Development classes and Adult Basic Education classes both serve adults, they have different goals and may serve different populations.

Adult Education

The Department of Education states that adult education serves adults of all ages as well as out-of-school youth (adolescents between 16 and 18 years of age). The focus of adult education programs is to help all adults get the skills they need to be enter the workforce, help their families and contribute to society. Adult education in the United States focuses on those students who did not complete high school with three programs: ABE, GED and ESL (English as a Second Language) classes.

GED

Communities offer GED classes to help adults get a high school equivalency diploma through a test. GED classes allow adults to get help before they test on skills they may be missing. For example, an adult may be able to pass the mathematics and science subtests, but need additional help with reading and writing skills in order to pass all parts of the test. The GED measures knowledge in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies and science. The goal in GED classes is to prepare students to take and pass the GED test.

ABE

Adults who are in adult basic education classes have different goals from those students who are taking a GED class. First, adults who are in an adult basic education class need help with basic literacy, while adults in a GED class typically can read at a high school level. Second, ABE classes may serve former students in special education classes, students who are still gaining proficiency in English and also students who are nearly ready to move to a GED class because their proficiency level is high enough to begin work towards the GED test. Third, ABE classes teach life skills and basic job skills in addition to reading, writing and mathematics. The goal in ABE is to improve literacy for adults and help them prepare for a job.

Finding Adult Education Classes

Where adult education classes are located varies by community. Adults can check with their state Department of Education to see if they have a list of classes. In some states, adult education classes are governed by the school districts, so it's worth calling the local district for class information. Other states hold adult education classes in vocational/technical schools or community colleges. Adults could also check with community libraries for information on classes.